Vikings “What If” Rankings Are Remarkable

Vikings "What If" Rankings Are Remarkable
Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Jarran Reed (90) rushes Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) as he passes the ball on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK.

By now, the Minnesota Vikings community and some NFL fans know about Minnesota’s unprecedented success in one-score games. The Vikings are 11-0 in games decided by eight or fewer points, which is both record-setting and mind-boggling. No team in NFL history has been that pristine in tight games.

Success in squeaker games has propelled the Vikings to a 12-4 record through 17 weeks, an NFC North crown for the first time since 2017, and the NFC’s No. 3 seed in the postseason tournament. There’s an off-chance Minnesota could sneak back into the No. 2 seed, but that would require the San Francisco 49ers losing this weekend to the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings ended most serious two-seed talks after losing at Green Bay on Sunday.

Vikings “What If” Rankings Are Remarkable

Well, there’s apparently another lens by which to examine the Vikings win-loss record, and it isn’t very favorable to Kevin O’Connell’s club. NCAA and NFL analyst Kelley Ford debuted “what-if” NFL standings on Monday. The idea is to reverse the outcome of one-possession games to alternate results. The metric isn’t incredibly meaningful but was created to illuminate the “game of inches” context.

Rankings Are Remarkable
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

Theoretically, if one switched the result of all the Vikings one-score games, Minnesota would be a 1-15 ballclub and the worst team in the country, according to Ford. Plain and simple. Have a look.

A similar situation existed for the Vikings last year — but in the inverse — where if one magically erased the points allowed by the 2021 Vikings in the final 2 minutes of the 1st Half of games, the team would’ve finished the season with a 13-4 record. Wild, huh?

The other interesting part about Ford’s what-if standings is the bottom combatants. In all likelihood, the New York Giants will play the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Wildcard Weekend, and that game will evidently showcase two of the “luckiest” teams in football, per Ford.

a new viking hero
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

When the Vikings were underachieving in 2020 and 2021, possessing a roster that seemed worthy of playoff berths, folks clamored for better situational football, plus defense and special teams that didn’t fold in crunchtime. The franchise hired Kevin O’Connell in February to help remedy the “we were this close” demons, and the former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator has done precisely that, ushering the Vikings into an era of late-game situational awareness.

The Vikings Teensy Magic Number
Kevin O’Connell

To their name, the Vikings own fancy distinctions like the largest comeback in NFL history, the most points scored in the 4th Quarter, and five game-winning field goals by kicker Greg Joseph. Indeed, the franchise notoriously snakebitten by bad luck has turned the tide — at least for a while — in 2022.

Now, the question becomes — is it enough to effectuate an honest-to-goodness Super Bowl push. Ford’s rankings suggest not.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).